I didn't realize there was something that could get me out of bed on a Saturday morning at 5:30am until yesterday: The Bay Area Ridge Trail - REI Service Day!
I left my home at about 6:30am to drive to the east bay to pick up my carless-by-choice cousin. (She does use city car share if family car share is not an option.) ;) I was happy to have a buddy for this, and Missy is always up for a hike or adventure. We signed up for the Skyline Trail in Berkeley. This is part of Tilden Park, neighbor to Sibley Park.
There were several of these events going around the entire bay area. I loved thinking of our fellow volunteers spread out across the bay, also with the goal of making the 550 mile trail loop a possibility.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, REI, and EBMUD put on the event at this location. The coordinators and rangers were AMAZING! We arrived to the park at about 7:45 to find lots of great signage and easy parking. We headed to the clearing with the tents set up and were greeted. "Registration isn't set up, so please enjoy breakfast!" Good priorities! :) Peet's Coffee provided the breakfast, and I'll never say no to their tasty coffee.
The weather was sunny, clear, and cold! It was funny to see most of us standing like prarie dogs soaking up the sun and avoiding the showers.
Soon, we were broken up into smaller groups and headed out to our tasks. The group we were in was fun, light hearted, and hard working. We were charged with removing some old wooden steps, making water bars (rocks in the trail to direct the flow of water across), improving trail grades, and widening parts of the trail. We had all kinds of fun tools - shovels (our group broke two), pulaskis, huge leverage spikes, McClouds, rakes, etc. FUN.
The tasks and duties were shared by informal rotation. I was impressed by the before and after - the trails were really improved by the work done. I've got a new appreciation for trails after realizing the work that goes into them.
The park is also stunning. A mix of exposed and open. We turned at one corner and were greeted by the site of the open valley.
I am definitely planning to return to Tilden for a hike. Both Missy and I felt like we got a good work out from swinging mud, rocks, axe's and dirt, but we didn't travel far into the trail.
Tilden also haves a lot of other attractions for families. There is a small steam train that runs through part of the park, and from the many excited kids waiting to get on it, it's popular.
The rangers also told me about the good deals on an EBMUD parking pass. This may be an option to inspire some more visits to the East Bay trails.
At the end of our work, the rangers were happy, the volunteers were dirty, and the cooks had bbq'ed up a fantastic meal. Prizes were awarded by drawing (neither of us won), goodie bags were handed out, and we all got t-shirts.
Fed, dirty, and happy, we left the skyline trail and drove back to Missy's. I stopped at one view point to really enjoy the amazing views. It was a rare clear day across the bay. We could see the bay bridge connecting Oakland to San Francisco. The Golden Gate in the distance spans the Golden Strait to the north bay.
It was breathtakingly beautiful. A good reminder of why the Ridge Trail is being built.